Quino El Guardian

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3 reviews

Listed in Live-Aboard, TRAVEL


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Quino El Guardian is a live-a-board operating out of the Sea of Cortez and surrounding areas. Join us on our special trips, our regular excursions to Midriff or Socorro Islands, or construct a custom charter trip. Built for the purpose of research and learning, Quino is the perfect vessel for scientific excursions. Furthermore, its comfortable accommodations and service-oriented crew make it a winning experience for any traveler.

Dora and Francisco (Lolo) Sandoval are the proud founders of Quino el Guardian, and their first ship, Rocio del Mar. When they began with their first ship, Rocio del Mar, Dora and Lolo were introducing not only the ship, but also the Northern Sea of Cortez as a dive destination. Along with expeditions to the Socorro Islands, their books filled with recreational diving trips to the point they could no longer accommodate research and investigation trips.The need for a vessel in the science and investigation field was huge. The time they spent with marine biologist groups were especially precious; they gave a sense of direction to the whole project, to be surrounded by open minds whose only interest was making the world a better place.

Quino is also available for unique private charters, such as Citizen Science programs, exploration to Clipperton Island and the Benito Islands, videography workshops, rebreather diving and teaching kids how to save our oceans.

Our vessel is 90 ft long with a 25 ft beam.
Quino holds room for 18 passengers with additional space for two of the group leaders in the crew quarters.
-5 cabins: 4 cabins with 4 beds and 1 cabin with two beds.
-There are two bunks on each side, equaling 4 beds with privacy curtains.
-Each cabin is outfitted with 4 large size drawers, one for each guest.
-There is one cabin with 2 bunks that sleeps 2.
-There is A/C throughout for everyone’s comfort.
-4 spacious community bathrooms with a full size shower in each
-There is a galley that comfortably accommodates all 18 passengers with a projector and a drop-down screen for group presentations.
-The salon is comfortable with sofas, a TV and a computer table set up.
-Huge dive deck, well organized with gear storage for all your diving equipment and a spacious camera tables.
-Dive platform for easy access to the inflatables.
-2 on-board compressors
-Large shaded sundeck with lawn chairs, perfect for relaxing between dives.
-2 inflatable tenders to get you to the dive spots and back to the boat with very sturdy ladders for the safety and ease of our divers.

Quino el Guardian is of the utmost sea worthiness and is approved by both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican Coast Guard. It is equipped with state of the art electronics and all safety equipment required.

  • Member Since: February 23, 2015
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October 28, 2016

This review is for a 13-day Explore Baja trip aboard the Quino El Guardian, in early October 2016.

This is a very unique dive trip, on a very unique boat. Divers looking for something different yet still a solidly good live-aboard experience should definitely consider it.

Our trip began in the North departing from Puerto Peñasco after an approximately 4 hour drive from Phoenix airport in the “Head Out to Rocky Point” shuttle van. The van was comfortable and there were several stops along the way to get out, stretch, buy snacks, etc.

At the docks we met some of the crew who helped get us and our gear aboard. There is a small shop a few blocks away for last minute purchases (let the crew know you are going) – very limited items but they did have some Don Julio at very reasonable cost :).

Departure was pretty quick for the overnight cruise to the first dive site. The passage was a bit rough, some of us tried to sleep on the top deck but had to come inside because of the salt spray from wind and waves. But this was the only time we had rough seas, all other days/nights were very calm and beautiful (and sunny!).

The divers on this trip were a diverse group, most of us had never met before. Lots of different backgrounds and personalities. But the nature of the Quino was to bring the group together. The 4-per-cabin arrangement, shared facilities, and smaller size of the boat contributed to this – to me it felt a bit like an adult-version summer camp, where one tends to make new friends and have great adventures. So I’ll say the size and organization of the boat, being smaller and less private than others, was actually a big plus – gave the whole trip a unique feeling.

I should also say the boat is completely adequate in size: comfortable dive deck with a good system for organizing the divers onto the dinghies, spacious and comfortable dining area, large shaded deck area (with additional non-shaded area for sun-worshipers), reading/relaxing/computer/TV lounge. It never felt crowded on the Quino – just fun.

Next I should mention the crew. Wow, best crew ever. These guys all work extremely hard to make the trip fun and comfortable, yet they are always personable and friendly. Lots of laughing and joking and interaction with the divers, but did I mention they work extremely hard to make the trip fun and comfortable? One thing I really appreciated is that every night the crew would deliver my mattress to the top deck, where I (and about half the other divers) could sleep out in the fresh air under the stars. I hadn’t done this since my early diving days in the South China Sea years ago – on this trip I slept every night on the top deck. Very fun!

Special mention must go to Pancho, our cook. The food was outstanding. Fresh, varied, flavorful, well-prepared, interesting presentation. I liked the fact that breakfasts were varied with lots of fresh fruit selections, and the two BBQ dinners on the top deck were outstanding (and really fun).

By now you must be wondering what the diving was like. OK, I’ll tell…

I brought a 5mm wetsuit + 3mm hooded vest for the diving in the north (first part of trip) and was glad that I did. A few of the dives had some pretty cold upwellings, most other dives were 75-79 degrees. Half-way through the trip I switched to a 3mm, which was perfect for the south.

Dives in the north were modest visibility. Not great but not terrible. Perfectly good for the kind of dives we did where there were lots of smaller creatures to find. In fact I really enjoyed seeing some new species that I’d never seen before, including signal blennies (very fun to watch), giant jawfish (amazing to look at when they come out of their holes), and others. Not the lush colorful reefs of Indonesia for example, but still plenty of interesting things to see and I can say that I enjoyed the diving.

Another interesting aspect of the North is the stark beauty of the landscape. Think: Mars meets ocean. Really enjoyed going on-shore and walking about a few times

One great aspect of this trip is that not only is there lots of diving, but there were also other fun things to do. For example an afternoon swimming with friendly Whale Sharks in a shallow bay (as much swimming with them as we wanted). Whale watching, including one encounter with Orcas. One evening walking about the small Baja town of Loreto and enjoying a marvelous dinner at a local taqueria (everything hand made and cooked over wood fires – you must try the Queso Fundido if you ever go).

The diving itself was very diverse. Lots of small things to see in the North, a number of dives with Sea Lions (some very playful), more and more fish and fantastic visibility as we moved toward the South, along with some beautiful reefs. Plus – for just about the entire trip we were the only divers (and in fact the only boat) anywhere in sight. We definitely had the dive sites, and it seemed the entire sea, all to ourselves.

Especially memorable in the South were our dives in the Cabo Pulmo national marine park. Google it and you will see pictures of giant schools of fish swimming around the divers. Yes – we saw that. Or I should say: we were in the middle of all that. Really fun. Another dive there was on a very beautiful reef, definitely artistic in its beauty.

Other memorable moments: The night dives we saw plenty of fun stuff, including one dive with bunches of mating sea hares all over the reef (where do they all come from???). Another dive we saw more moray eels than I can recall ever seeing in one site, including one hole with 14 of the big guys all packed in together. Lots of octopus, especially in the North where it seemed I saw at least one on every dive. Night dive with fighter squadrons of Mobula attacking the dense clouds of krill attracted by the light. And the several dives on submerged sea mounts were all very fun too.

Although currents can be strong in the Sea of Cortez, we were pretty lucky and at most only encountered modest current on just a few of the dives, most were without any current. I think the dive masters did a good job of planning sites in this respect.

Although I’m not a photographer, I can say Cat, our good friend, had a great time photographing new creatures he had never encountered before. Cat is an avid diver and photographer, seems that he spends more time diving than not, so the fact that he was so happy with his photographic results from this trip (and plans to come back again), says a lot for the photographic opportunities in the Sea of Cortez.

All in all it was a unique and very fun trip, I highly recommend it. Thanks to Dora and Lolo (owners/founders), and the entire Quino crew for making it a great experience.

January 21, 2016

I was constantly blown away by how friendly, helpful and hardworking the crew of the Quino El Guardian was. This was my first liveaboard experience, and I was amazed at how productive my trip was, as there was no more schlepping gear to the beach and back.

The Divemasters were knowledgeable and experienced, and were flexible in allowing the photographers to take their time and stay in a specific area versus going with the group. The two panga (Zodiacs) system allowed for speedy entrances and exits with two groups of 8/9 divers.

Dora joined our expedition, and her wonderful personality and charisma was a delight to be around. She was also extremely helpful in addressing any concerns that we had, and ensuring smooth operations.

My only complaint was that we weren’t able to use Nitrox due to a problem with the compressor, and the bunks were a big tight. Neither issue affected my trip however, and I had an amazing experience! Can’t wait to join the Quino on a future expedition.

December 8, 2015

The crew of Quino El Guardian, by far, stand out as most outstanding and impressive of my live aboard experiences which are many around the world. The Quino crew are a family. They embrace each diver into their family. We all know how hard crews work on a live aboard, 24/7, and we are always impressed by the crew’s ability to be so much fun, do all they can to make our dive experience the best BUT this crew is different – they excel. I think this quality of excellence speaks to the owners, Dora and Lolo. Dora and Lolo treat their crew like their family with kindness and respect.

The boat is different now than in the pictures. The diving deck is open so you can see out from starboard and port. I like the way it is laid out with the large camera station in the middle. It is organized, spacious, and the cleanest (all the time) of any dive boat. Many NY Four Star restaurants would love to have some of their recipes – excellent in variety, taste, smell, presentation!

I see the Quino El Guardian as a working live aboard dive boat. Sleeping quarters are tight, tight, and tight; four bunks to a berth. I shared with two other women, for the three of us the space worked. I liked the privacy curtains because it felt like lights out, ready to be rocked to sleep. Showers and toilets are upstairs on deck which was really convenient after dives. And, if you had to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, it was your secret to be part of the sea, the anchorage, the stars, the air that no one else got to see.

The entire Quino El Guardian Citizen’s Science Expedition experience was uniquely special. I can hardly wait to be back aboard. – bp

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